Midseason TV Report: What’s Going On With All the Shows?!

On the heels of FOX cancelling freshmen series Ben and Kate, I thought it would be a good time to check-in on the TV season thus far. The 2012-2013 TV season started promising enough, with a batch of new shows vying for our attention and space on our DVRs. But it seems, to this TV fan anyways, that this was a particularly rough year for a lot of shows, not just the new freshmen series.

TOO MANY COMEDIES = FEW LAUGHS

The biggest issue that came about with the new season was that 3 of the major networks decided to schedule a chunk of their comedies on Tuesdays. Sure, it probably seemed like a good idea early on, but it became clear that with 8 comedies vying for similar audiences in a two-hour block, there were casualties to be made. After making their debuts, Ben and Kate and The Mindy Project got more episode pickups beyond the initial 13, despite middling ratings. FOX put faith in the shows growing in viewers, but for some reason, the numbers just weren’t there for Ben and Kate. Critics approved and enjoyed the show, but seemingly out of nowhere, FOX halted production and pulled the show from the schedule. In its place, FOX is doubling up on Raising Hope, currently in its 3rd season, and putting its season finale at March (which could be taken as a bad sign for the critically adored show).

Over on ABC, the story is just as troubling. After cancelling 666 Park Avenue (more on that later), ABC had decided on putting Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23 in that timeslot, on top of its current Tuesday timeslot, so that all their episodes would air before DWTS came back and they introduce some celebrity diving show. However, after two weeks of not so great ratings on Sundays, ABC effectively pulled the plug on Apt. 23, while Happy Endings will double up on episodes on Tuesdays. Again, it seems like Happy Endings is getting burned off, which might be a sign of trouble ahead for the show.

NBC is struggling with their own Tuesday comedies, Go On and The New Normal. Go On, the ensemble comedy starring Matthew Perry, has a solid viewership (some say due to its former Voice results lead-in), but not a lot of people talking about it. The New Normal had a lot of people talking early on, with people either loving or hating it, and now has settled in with those who liked it and not much else.

The new season has certainly been rough on a lot of comedies, and not just for the aforementioned Tuesday shows. CBS’ Partners and NBC’s Animal Practice were pretty much D.O.A. NBC cancelled Dane Cook’s Next Caller before a single episode even aired. FOX’s The Goodwin Games saw its episode order cut from 13 to 7, and no sign of when (or even if) those episodes will see the light of day. Second season show Up All Night took a hit creatively upon its return and are currently in the midst of reformatting to a multi-camera show (think more along the lines of Big Bang Theory; filming in front of an audience). Community was supposed to come back for its fourth season in October, but NBC put it on benchwarmer status, before finally giving it a February premiere date. Yet don’t even get me started on the shows that somehow find a way to survive.

RISKS PAYING OFF?

This is not a knock at the general viewing public (or maybe it is?). With cable networks thriving with their original programming (Homeland, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, etc.), the broadcast networks served up some different offerings for the new season to varying degrees of success. NBC got off easy when it found itself a hit with Revolution, a show that hooked people in with its premise of what happens when all our power/technology goes off?

ABC, on the other hand, continued its rough season when it was 0/2 for new dramas, 666 Park Avenue and Last Resort. 666 Park Avenue struggled to find its footing for the first couple episodes and was quickly deemed as a campy thriller/guilty pleasure. A lot of people shot down Park Ave for its not-so-scary storytelling, to which I can’t help but say that it’s a broadcast network show – American Horror Story, this is not. Alas, some people dropped the show as it was getting good and new viewers were nowhere to be found. When the announcement was made that ABC was cancelling the show, they had initially promised to air all 13 episodes, but then completely pulled the show off the schedule with 4 episodes left (that will supposedly air some time in the summer). Last Resort was an ambitious effort to begin with and paired with its terrible timeslot, it didn’t seem like it was going to last very long. Despite strong writing and a top notch cast, the show seemed to appeal to a more male audience, on a mostly female-oriented network.

Though not as much of a risky show as the other 3, ABC’s Nashville is still quite a wildcard. While it was deemed as another musical series a la Glee, the outcome was a much more drama and character-driven series that happened to be set in the world of country music, thereby allowing music to be organically introduced into the show. The show is certainly not without its flaws, but overall, it is a great show. For some reason however, the ratings are not what was expected of the show, leaving questions as to whether it will be able to earn a second season pickup come Upfronts (or earlier).

WRITING SLUMPS

Not to be rude, but there are some shows that I think have suffered in quality lately. Revenge, coming off of winter break has finally picked up steam and gotten a little bit back to basics. But before break, it was a huge mess with all this Americon Initiative stuff that made absolutely no sense, the stuff with the Ryan brothers and the Stowaway, even the storyline of Emily/Amanda’s mom felt a little underwhelming and unnecessary.

Glee is trying its hardest to balance the McKinley and NYADA storylines, but when I’m not furious with them over musical choices, I can’t quite seem to connect to the new kids. I keep wanting to see Dianna Agron, Naya Rivera, Amber Riley, Harry Shum Jr., and they are nowhere to be found.

What should’ve been a huge creative kick with Elena becoming a vampire on The Vampire Diaries, has instead become an incredible bore with the focus on finding “the cure.” Even the thing of having Damon and Elena finally hooking up got ruined by the idea that Elena was sired to Damon. Now with the writers and the network trying to do an Originals spin-off featuring Klaus and Elijah in New Orleans, I can’t help but not want it to happen.

SHOWS THAT HAVE IMPRESSED

I hate to sound so negative in all these analytical postings, so let me turn around and muse about some shows that have done well so far this season. Who would’ve thought that one of the biggest hits of the fall would end up belonging to The CW? Arrow was far and away one of the biggest winners of the fall TV season, and one of the few new shows this season that seem to be a certainty for renewal.

Scandal premiered late last season with 7 episodes, but came back firing on all cylinders for its second season. Shonda Rhimes created a show that certainly didn’t feel like Grey’s Anatomy or Private Practice, in any shape or form. Its steady ratings increase certainly show that more and more viewers are catching on to this seductive series.

Though it only premiered this past week, I am already very impressed with FOX’s The Following. Lots of people tuned into the premiere, despite all the controversy of whether it was too violent, particularly in the wake of such violent tragedies around the U.S. We’ll have to see if those numbers stick for the next few weeks.

Of course, some of the other new shows that I have enjoyed this season so far have received middling ratings including The Mindy Project, Go On, Nashville, and the now-cancelled Ben and Kate. Of the returning favourites, Nikita continues to not disappoint and impress on so many levels, while How I Met Your Mother is finally guiding us towards the pivotal meeting of the mother in question.

So moral of the story is: no matter how good (or bad) the show is, ratings are everything, and dictate whether or not your favourites survive. There are still a bunch of new shows that will premiere in the coming months, heading into the circle of TV life that is Upfronts. In the meantime, sound off on your thoughts of the TV season thus far!

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